Lost Girl

Edited by Julia Rios

October 2019

Listen to this story, narrated by C. S. E. Cooney:

This is the way the story goes: a young woman, alone in the world, in a dilapidated house by the sea or on the moors. Perhaps she is a governess, a companion, or even an heiress. Perhaps she knows nothing of the house’s reputation, or perhaps she is too desperate to care. There may be a man, a child, a housekeeper, but always there is a ghost, seldom seen but always present.

They have many origins, these ghosts: neglected mistresses, wronged lovers, abused servants, murdered children. Or, perhaps, not so many origins, after all. They seek vengeance, redemption, to do to others what was done to them, to warn the new girl of her potential fate. Victims. Avengers. Lost girls.

But not me. I am not lost. I may or may not be a victim. I don’t remember how it happened. Now I am just here… waiting. Watching you steam off the dreadful living room wallpaper through my transparent body. Feeling you shiver when I run my fingers down your arm. Longing to caress your flesh when you undress and sink rapidly into lukewarm water in the claw foot tub in the bathroom. Wanting you to hear the words that I whisper into your sleeping ears.

Maybe you are the lost girl. Why did you come here? Was it for money or position or love? Did I know you when I was alive? Do you know that I’m here or is this place a conundrum of damp and cold spots with no discernible origin? Do you dream of a waif-like girl in a long white dress with silver hair who wants to press her body against yours?

When you leave the house in the morning, I press my see-through self against the see-through glass of the front window, transparency upon transparency, and watch you walk to your car and drive away. Will you come back? Will today be the last day that I see you? If it is, what will I do then?

And will it matter?

But I know the answer to that already. I can remember what it was like before you came: the empty hallways and rooms filled with dusty furniture and decaying rugs, the overgrown trees tapping their branches against the windows. How hard I exerted myself to knock over a knickknack or nudge a curtain aside! Anything to feel as if I was more than just a figment of somebody’s imagination.

You see that I assume that I was once alive, that I have not always been here, drifting through the walls and rising like mist through the floors. I imagine that some of the old photographs, the ones you put in the drawer, are of me and of people I knew then. I first noticed you when you ran your fingertips over one of the faces before you hid it away. Was it a photo of me? Was I your lover? Your wife? I hope I was special to you. I want to be missed, to be longed for. I want to know that, before this happened, I was important to someone.

Secretly, I hope that you will join me in this place, in this half-life, half-death. I want you to twine your spectral limbs in mine and shower my face in ghostly kisses. I want my longing to become flesh, or its phantasmal equivalent. I want to haunt this house with you forever, my darling, my dear, my queen. Lost girls who have found a place to call their home, lost girls who are lonely and lost no more.

Would we endure it, that last great transition? Or would finding a home, belonging, cause us to evaporate into the ether, our purpose fulfilled? I want to know, and yet I want to remain ignorant, the glass cold under my spectral fingertips as I wait for you, in this empty house with its dark hallways with the photos that might be me or someone else entirely.

All I have to do is to bind you to this place. All I have to do is to hold you until you can feel it too.

© 2019 Catherine Lundoff

About the author

Catherine Lundoff

Catherine Lundoff is an award-winning writer, editor, and publisher from Minneapolis, where she lives with her wife and the cats who own them. She is the author of over one hundred published short stories and essays, and eight books, including Silver Moon and Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories. She has also edited or co-edited three anthologies, including the multi-genre pirate anthology Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space). In addition, she is the publisher at Queen of Swords Press, a genre fiction publisher specializing in fiction from out of this world. Websites: www.catherinelundoff.net and www.queenofswordspress.com.

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